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Student loan borrowers and the Too Much Talent Band thank President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris for extending the student loan pause while demanding that they cancel student debt at a gathering outside the White House on January 13, 2022, in Washington, D.C.

Student loan borrowers and the Too Much Talent Band thank President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris for extending the student loan pause while demanding that they cancel student debt at a gathering outside the White House on January 13, 2022, in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images for We The 45 Million)

'Just Cancel It': 85% of Young US Voters Want Action on Student Debt

A plurality of Americans under age 30 surveyed by Harvard Kennedy School's Institute of Politics support canceling all outstanding student loan debt.

Brett Wilkins

Nearly nine in 10 young Americans want the government to address the student loan debt crisis, with a plurality—but overall minority—supporting full cancellation, according to the results of a national survey published Monday.

The survey, conducted by Harvard Kennedy School's Institute of Politics (IOP), found that 85% of respondents under age 30 "favor some form of government action on student loan debt."

However, "young Americans had no clear consensus on a path forward related to student loan debt," with 38% of overall respondents wanting all debt canceled, 27% agreeing that the government should assist with—but not cancel—repayment, 21% favoring cancellation for the neediest borrowers, and 13% supporting the status quo.

Among Democratic voters, the survey found 43% support for canceling all debt, 19% wanting some government help, 29% backing cancellation for those in need, and 4% favoring current policy.

"Opinions on this issue do not differ significantly among likely voters in the 2022 midterms compared to the broader population of 18-to-29-year-olds," said IOP, "as 83% of young likely voters express a preference for government action, including 79% of those not in college now, and without a degree."

The IOP survey also found:

  • A majority (54%) of white Americans and 49% of Asian-Americans under 30 "strongly" agreed with the statement, "I grew up thinking it was possible for me to go to college," compared to only 32% of Black Americans and 38% of Latinos under 30; and 
  • Forty-eight percent of young Americans agree—but only 18% strongly agree—with the statement, "Going to college is worth the time and money," while 26% disagreed and 24% chose a neutral position.

The survey also revealed that young people are increasingly cynical about the ability of electoral politics to deliver solutions to the world's problems.

In what IOP called a "warning sign that interest in voting in the 2022 midterms could wane," the survey found a sharp increase in the percentage of youth who agree that "political involvement rarely has any tangible results," from 22% in 2018 to 36% in 2022. More than four in 10 survey respondents also agreed with the assertion that their vote won't "make a real difference," while over half of those surveyed believe that "politics today are no longer able to meet the challenges our country is facing."


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